2001 Infiniti Q45
Photo: Nissan/Infiniti. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase

Here’s a question: how do you tick off a whole bunch of people who just bought the final examples of the first generation Infiniti Q45 luxury sedan in 1996? Easy – introduce a totally redesigned Q45 in 1997 and price it $7,000 cheaper.

That’s no hypothetical question, either; it’s exactly what Infiniti did when it launched the second generation of its flagship sedan, a car that had a much different character than the one it replaced. To wit: it was smaller (albeit only slightly), had a softer ride and handling and a smaller, less powerful engine than the original Q45.

What were they thinking? One probable answer is that Infiniti wanted to try to steal some sales from Lexus’ LS400, the king of the cushy luxo-sedans, rather than try to compete with the sportier end of the market, dominated by BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Whatever the reason, the Q45 remains an under-appreciated player in the super-sedan class. This week, we’ll take a look at the highlights of this high-end car.

In 1997 and 1998, this Infiniti “Q” ship was available in two trims: a “base” model and a more expensive Touring model, known as the Q45t. In 1999, the base model was dropped.

Being Infiniti’s flagship model, every Q45 was loaded with just about every conceivable luxury and safety feature that could be crammed into a car, and all this for thousands of dollars less than a Lexus LS400.

That high value quotient remains intact today. Check out these used values: a 1997 model is worth between $7,000 and $9,800 per the Canadian Red Book, a mere fraction of the base car’s $65,000 M.S.R.P. A 2001 Q45t is worth $26,050, just 37 per cent of its $70,000 price when new. In case you were wondering, yes, that is a good deal – a new Honda Accord with a V6 is worth $29,500.

Choose a used Q45 for the price, but if safety is a priority, you may want to continue shopping. While the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Institute didn’t test the Q45, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) did conduct a partial test of the car, and the results weren’t stellar. The IIHS gave the Q45 a “marginal” rating in frontal crash tests, citing a potential for head and left leg injury for the driver. No side impact tests were conducted.

From a reliability standpoint, however, the Q45 seems to be a good bet. Due to the Q45’s relatively low sales volume, Consumer Reports only had enough data to rate 1997 and 1999 models but based on that alone, there are far worse ways to spend that $26,000 you have laying around. The Q45 receives the magazine’s coveted “recommended” rating, which is no small feat for a car loaded with electronic gizmos, which can often be more troublesome in the long-run than the more basic mechanical components of a car. Indeed, trouble spots are few here, with the only major issue stemming from the braking system in 1997 models. The Q45 gets above average ratings for the durability of its electrical system and power equipment, a rarity in any car approaching ten years of age.

Fuel economy is what you’d expect for a large sedan powered by an eight-cylinder engine: expect a Q45 to burn fuel at a rate of about 9.3 L/100 km on the highway, and around 13.5 L/100 km in the city.

Truthfully, if you want a flashy car that people will look at when you drive by, feel free to spend the money on a BMW 7-series or a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. If you want a car that will coddle and isolate you and your passengers from the cruel outside world, pick up a Lexus LS400. But if you want an attractively-priced V8-powered import sedan that won’t attract the attention of every around you, then a second-generation Infiniti Q45 is the Q-ship for you.

On-line Resources:

http://nicoclub.com/ – Here’s a rarity as far as automotive enthusiast websites are concerned: Nicoclub.com is run by Infiniti and Nissan technicians, making a great place to start if you want a good source for technical help and information. It has to mean something that the site has around 30,000 members.

FreshAlloy.com – This is a well-known Nissan and Infiniti website with a large member base and active forums full of information. The other sections of the site are worth exploring too.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1999030 Units affected: 316

1997-1998: Certain vehicles do not comply with the requirements of CMVSS 114 – Locking System. There is the possibility that the ignition key can be removed at times when the engine is turned off without placing the transmission shift lever in the “Park” position. If this were to occur, and the driver failed to move the shift lever to “Park” after removing the key and failed to engage the parking brake before exiting the vehicle, the vehicle could roll away. Correction: Shift lock control unit will be replaced.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2002117 Units affected: 7,768

1999: On certain vehicles one of the diodes used in the alternator may have been damaged when built. This can eventually result in failure of the diode and an electrical short, which could melt the plastic housing. If the combustible gas emitted by the melting plastic does not disperse due to airflow through the engine compartment, it could ignite and in turn ignite the fan guide in the alternator. Correction: dealers will replace the alternator.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003068 Units affected: 33

2000-2001: On certain vehicles equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, these wheels may have a casting defect(s) from which a crack(s) may propagate as the vehicle is being driven. If a sufficient number of cracks develop, the wheel could fail and separate from the mounting hub. Correction: Dealer will replace wheels.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003267 Units affected: 74,143

2001-2002: On certain vehicles, the circuit board for the crank position sensor may have an improper solder joint. This could cause the Service Engine Soon warning light to come on, create a no start condition, cause reduced engine power, or cause the engine to stop running without warning during vehicle operation. Correction: Dealer will replace the crank position sensors.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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